Students Walk Out

dedicated to Mrs. Swanson

As I marched the two miles amongst thousands of protesters with a green and black poster in my hands and a sore throat from chanting, I felt all at once the thrill of humanity reminiscent of a time when I was encouraged to reach out and touch history. Next to me, a life long friend who I met in high school leans over and asks if this was the first time I had joined a protest march. When I responded that I had marched in Washington almost twenty years ago – I remembered the high school teacher that had inspired me at sixteen to get on a bus at Washington Square Park and ride to Washington DC to exercise my right to voice my opinion and protest. My friend asked what I had protested against at that time and I responded ironically that I didn’t even remember.

What I began to remember though as the past and the present collided somewhere between 34th Street and 38th Street was that my high school Canadian born science teacher had made an announcement in all of her classes in the year of 1986. It was an invitation to any student who wanted to join her – and now that I am writing, I believe it was about Pro-Choice, and we were high school students attending an all girls Catholic high school in Yonkers. I was the only one who ended up joining her that weekend. Sitting on the steps of the NYU student center waiting for a bus to pick us up, I did not know that I would within the next few years, walk up those same steps as a NYU student and later on, as a graduate from the School of Education.

Thousands marched on November 2nd in NYC and in other major cities across the nation and amongst us, hundreds of students who had walked out of their schools – many of which reported having to accept a suspension for up to three days. Amongst us, a group from Walton High School in the Bronx – the notorious school that Kozol refers to in his book, where lunchtime rounds begin at 9:30am. Many of Walton High School youth told us that they had lost a few who had been picked up by the cops before making it down to Union Square. “We made it!” they screamed to my right. I turned around to look at my Black and Latino brothers and sisters, smiling and alive and so alive they were that I couldn’t help but get choked up. Looking away and back to the podium where the members of the The World Can’t Wait Coalition spoke emphatically about our need to mobilize and dismantle the Bush administration, I felt elated and humbled. It was a realization that we are all one, even my past and present self-merged at that moment. I was part of an eclectic and diverse community of conscientious citizens. Those high school students reminded me of where I come from, where I am going and the power of voice. I want to express gratitude to all of those who came out on November 2nd to exercise voice, especially the students who dared to make a difference and finally to my teacher, who twenty years ago still makes a difference in me.